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My rant about totems


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#41 Wexler

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 07:16 PM

I think it's misguided to think something is your spirit animal cause it's cool. To me without a deeper connection that requires work; it's simply that a cool animal. To me it's deeper than just a new age thing, a huge part of the non fiction market is self help. I 'm robably too jaded, but I blame alot of the basterdization on the quest to have the next self help best seller. Equally quilty is anyone who wants the results without the work, jumping from fad to fad for a cure all.

 

I believe there is an impression amongst white Americans that our culture is spiritually dead (or just Christian, which is boring and has too many rules) and to be spiritually enlightened people, we need to adopt the beliefs of other cultures (which are exciting, and aren't presented as having rules). And to make these spiritual fads easily digestible, authors do often make the process seem very easy and devoid of risk - and they probably throw in a few angels for good measure.

 

I cannot agree that once a single culture or religion has adopted spiritual beliefs, nobody else is 'allowed' to use those beliefs. Spirituality is not "finders keepers". When assimilating beliefs of other cultures, I feel there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. To me, the right way would be to see a concept that resonates with you, and attempt to find that concept mirrored within your own spiritual tradition; or, to spend a great deal of time studying the idea and its surrounding concepts so you can practice that aspect of a different tradition with respect.

 

The wrong way, to me, centers around people borrowing spirituality piecemeal from other cultures because they need their own spirituality to be validated, or because they have stagnated on their own path and they want something new to freshen things up. Growing on your own spiritual path is hard, especially if you don't have teachers or a family tradition. Taking time every day to practice, learn, and grow is often tiring and frustrating. It is easy to feel lost and confused, especially for young people trying to find their own way. Borrowing chunks from other religions (without understanding or forethought) is a cop-out that makes you feel like you have spiritually expanded yourself when you have not.


Edited by Wexler, 15 February 2014 - 07:17 PM.

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#42 Nikki

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 07:58 PM

Hi everyone, I'm really new and this is my first thread .I have a issue that is coming up a lot lately and it driving me nuts. Totems I am native American and follow the medician path during that we learn about totems. What they are how to call them even how to help others find theirs. That said this concept that he I'll just pick a cool animal I like is bs. It doesn't and shouldn't work that way. Totems are a sacred part of yourself they reveille something very deep and important about you. There in away like your witchs name and like that secret name you should never tell others what your totem animal or worse it's name is. By telling everyone what your totem is your giving away power over yourself to others.your totem is a sacred part of you and just like thoughs other sacred parts they should be protected and respected. Your totem animal can leave you this happens only rarely and is usually due to a deep spiritual crisis. Most people have more than one totem through out there life or you can have more than one. Anouther thing that can happen is your totem will have three forms usually earth,air ,water or perhaps mythical fire shapes. I have become so annoyed that people are aproching this like it's a whim or game it's flustrating for those of use who find real power in them. In my opinion it's also dangerous like giving away a peace of yourself and I know most of us would never do that because we know what someone could do with it. I hope no one feels insulted by this I am certainly not aiming this at anyone here I'm just so flusterated by the blatant disrespect I see some places. I actually ended up here after attempting a Wiccan site that I found so Juvenal I lasted two days lol. I'm really new to forums so I hadn't researched it like I did after reliving my mistake. I have been reading through old posts and have to say you ladies and gentilmen seem very well educated and masters of your crafts. I realize that I'm new so I expect to have to earn my bones so to speak . If anyone has any questions please ask and I mean no disrespect this was just bothering me so much I had to put it out there hopfully to others who will understand my irritation.

 

I cannot help but think how closely this thread parallels Theory vs. Practice.

 

Wexler: "Spirituality is not finder's keepers" Instant Classic !!!

 

Maybe I missed something here, but Totems are not exclusive to Native Americans.

 

Athena, since this is a subject near and dear to you... What advice might you give someone seeking a deeper understanding of a personal totem? 


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#43 Sinnergy

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 08:40 PM

Athena if you could highlight what you learned about Apache use of power it would be wonderful. It sounds fascinating.
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#44 Jevne

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 08:46 PM

. . .

When assimilating beliefs of other cultures, I feel there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. To me, the right way would be to see a concept that resonates with you, and attempt to find that concept mirrored within your own spiritual tradition; or, to spend a great deal of time studying the idea and its surrounding concepts so you can practice that aspect of a different tradition with respect.

 

The wrong way, to me, centers around people borrowing spirituality piecemeal from other cultures because they need their own spirituality to be validated, or because they have stagnated on their own path and they want something new to freshen things up. . . .

 

Hello, Wexler:

 

I agree with this sentiment . . . a right way and a wrong way; a respectful way and disrespectful way . . . I recall that we discuss this subject in great detail on another thread, too.  If I happen upon it, I'll give it a bump for you.  As I recall, many found bits that mirrored their own Path on other people's Paths.  Noting similarities and shared connections can be a good thing.


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#45 Michele

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 12:00 AM

I would guess - and anyone NA please correct me if I am incorrect, lol - that Native American is the last of the "remembered" traditions native to this land (America). Most other religions were brought over by the people who practiced them. And being a very Christian culture people looking for the connection and spirituality that Christianity doesn't offer turn to the tradition of this land. I doubt many people in Europe or Africa turn to NA spirituality. Many Americans don't have exposure to other "accepted" spiritualities and the NA spirituality has come to be accepted by most people of this particular land. Witchcraft still holds a negative/evil stigma. 

 

I belong to a vape (electronic cigarette) forum and there was an old man on there (he's since passed away) who was a NA stroyteller - that was his training, to know the stories -and he posted several beautiful ones which he told with great talent.... he was an old man with a heavily tattoed face. Most on that forum are Christian, many practicing. But he was widely loved and respected on the forum as was his religion/spirituality, even by the Christians. Had he been a witch and started posting stories of witch-mythology I question whether he would have been as accepted. 

 

So some people seek out the "acceptable" spiritualities, and NA beliefs have a certain legitimacy to them lacking in Neo-Paganism, so it is often to them that people turn; however, they are not NAs, do not know or understand the culture that birthed this spirituality which I think is very attached to the land and the things the land was shared with. And they barge in and try to make it fit into their current culture and lifestyle and that adulterates it greatly.

 

M


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#46 Guest_monsnoleedra_*

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 01:14 PM

I think one major issue with Native American (NA from here out) concepts is the frequent notion of one large Native American Pantheon of gods / goddesses and spirit beings.  That seems to be the aspect I see most often used as a justification of borrowing terms like Totem and Medicine Person especially,  I think the other is the notion of the romantic perspective of the noble savage and their connection to the land and its spirit creatures.  That romantic point of view leading people to borrow terms and concepts as they try to reach that rose colored perception of things and the trappings associated with it.

 

Totemism was at one time a rapidly growing aspect of neo-pagan practices and found to be in every book you could find it seemed.  The classic how to find ones totem, how to go on a journey, usually guided, to encounter their totem. It seemed one had to have a "Totem" or else they were not a true ________(Fill in the blank).  It is especially bad within the "Shaman" or "Shamanic" pathways as that term has become an umbrella term for the most part.  What makes it even worse I suppose is the most exploited nations being the Sioux (The Lakota, The Dakota, The Uglala and I think its the Teton) for the plains nations and the Cherokee (Tsalagi) for the Eastern Woodland nations.  Their clan structure and mythological beings and functions, ie White Buffalo Calf Woman Comes Dancing for instance.  Heck even things such as Sweat Lodges, Vision Quests, Pip Holders, Keepers of Relics, etc have been borrowed.

 

I use the term Totem mostly because people wouldn't understand if I used Charge, Rampart, Herald or other animal based identification things used in Europe.  Even then the usage and meaning of "Totem" had become more than the notion or idea of most NA usage.  Its become conflated with Power Animal, Spirit Animal, Spirit Guide, Shadow or Contrary Totem and a dozen other terms I can't recall of the top of my head,   Yet try and educate people and your asking for everything from being cursed out to they can't or don't own it so its free to anyone.

 

For me trying to relate and understand I wrote this out.  It conveys all my thoughts and perspective on proper usage and such of the term.  Is it correct?  I think so but it is also always subject to refinement or clarrification.

 

All that follows is my opinion only so other's may differ greatly from that.
 
I think what many are discovering is the confusion that has developed about the notion of Power Animal, Spirit Animal, Spirit Animal Guide, Totem Animal and Guides in general.  The influx of new age notions and a certain amount of revamping of pagan notions and ideals have changed the face of these items.  That coupled to a certain amount of liberty with the definitions as they have been lifted from other systems of beliefs and practices.
 
The Totem Animal is perhaps the most corrupted to my point of view. The totem is an animal that was associated with a clan, tribe, family, etc. It was seldom associated to an individual except to the extent that a member of the group claimed it as their ______ Totem. This is most well known when one looks to the Totem Poles of the Northwestern US. Those are Totems that are associated with the tribe (group) not individuals. I will admit I am divided in reference to whether one can have a totem from their respective parent’s lines, I.e. different totem from mother's side and father's side.  In this perspective it might be possible to possess two totems.
 
There is an individual totem on occasion though they are far more difficult to discover.  Usually the individual who has done or underwent a quest and vision to discover them discovers these types.  They then become the markers for that person and are a guide upon their pathwalk and serve as both totem, spirit guide and power animal all rolled into one.  While possible it is my experience that not all will discover this type of totem creature, even if they do quest for it.
 
Some totems become clan or Spiritual Clan emblems and houses.  For instance, Once I was in a trance state and had a woman in white come up to me and led me into a ring of dancing spirits in animal form. As she brought me to the ring she introduced me to the dancers as "Wolf" and introduced the dancers as simply "Dancers". Yet as I danced the dance I changed from human form to that of a wolf and watched as the other dancers did so as well, yet they were of other forms.  Later I joined a second dance that was composed of people that changed to Wolf form only and we danced again. Of course there is a lot more to it than just what I have spoken of but that is for me only. 
 
Totems are also assigned to clan’s based upon the Medicine Wheel.  Each quarter of the wheel marked as being under the influence of a specific creature.  For instance under one variant I am of the Turtle Clan as that is the house in charge of the quadrant that covers the month of March.  Yet on that same wheel I have a totem animal of the Puma, as it is the totem that governs that month.  Yet these clan totems may very from nation to nation or from continent to continent.  One may also find totems in the form of clan or family heralds in the shape of family crests or banners.
 
Individuals were (are) associated with Power Animals. The Power Animal is one that guide's and influences the individual but is also a source of power and inspiration for the individual. For instance one of my Power Animals is the Heron. All I have to do is see it and my mind takes off, yet not each sighting is a lesson though the bird inspires me never the less in how I view the world and see myself in it.
 
The Power Animal may also show as what is called a Shadow Totem or Shadow Power Animal. That is a creature that instills a great fear or hesitation in us. It is some facet of its power that undermines us until we face that fear and learn to overcome or accept it. It's like Wolf is associated with family and group yet inversely it is also associated with individualism and self-purpose. Both that are seen as a detriment to the family / group when they take precedent in action and purpose.
 
The Spirit Animal Guide is usually a form that is taken that we initially find a connection to. Many times the initial contact the front door to discovering the more terrifying and darker forms that will follow. Some will hold a singular form the whole time we know them, other's will change and evolve or simply one will leave and another come. Many times the Spirit Animal Guide leads us and encourages us within dreamtime or journeywork.
 
At times the Spirit version may hold the properties of the physical version though that is not always true. At times one may find that to discover the spirit realm one must become the Spirit Animal Guide.  By becoming the guide we see it's lessons or come to understand the area we are traversing.  Yes, sometimes it also allows us to move unseen or survive in the area we are being taken to.
 
We also have Divine Spirit Guides I believe. For me mine are Deer (Artemis) and Cat (Bast). My parents have told me cats have come to me since I first crawled from my crib while Deer appear in dreams and walk up to me at times. Granted the Stag is the sign of Artemis and those appear as well but the deer is an unobtrusive messenger that appears in the real world of man.  Guides or a messenger that serve to remind us or connect us to the divine presence in our lives if that is a component of our pathwalk.
 
I do believe there are spirit animals that are life long guides and influences. For me that animal has always been the Dragon. I have seen them in everything since I can recall and know when they show up something is about to happen. In many instances I have carried on conversations with various dragons in dreamtime.
 
I think Spirit animals may also be seen as primary and secondary. The primary is always with us but the secondary is of such importance that they are also present at all times but not quite as vocal. For me the secondary has always been the Snow Leopard, yet it is also the primary for my wife.  I'll admit I have wondered if hers was so large in my life as it was guiding me to her.
 
In the physical sense the assumption of its shape is a form of Shape Shifting. In this instance it's the process of connecting to our Power Animal or Spirit Guide by trying to imitate it's actions and movements. For instance for me with Heron it's a process of stepping into the water and moving and trying to act like Heron in the way it interacts with its environment. Yet not just trying to act like it but to actually feel like it and understand it. 
 
Where I may differ is that I also believe we receive guides from all the kingdoms of life. Certain trees and plants are used as guides within the kingdom of the Green People; certain minerals or stones may call to us as representatives of the stone people. For me the winged people have sent Heron and Dragonfly. The four legs have used Deer and Cats as guides.  The two legs have used many guides. Even the water people have sent guides in the form of fish (Carp) and newts and salamanders.
 
The thing about guides is that I believe that a guide may only be with us as long as necessary to teach its lesson.  SO we may have guides that are present for a day, a month, a year however long it takes to teach us the lesson it has been sent to convey to us.  As such it also implies that a guide may come and go forever, a guide may appear then disappear from your lives multiple times.  It implies that one may have any number of guides present at and given moment of time to teach you Spirit’s lesson.
 
As I stated at the top these are my beliefs and opinions so may vary greater from what other’s have to say on the subject.
 
Below are two articles and links from another person that some may recognize from another site.  Yet I find that I agree greatly with much that she has said.  As such I include them here that you may have other resources to read and discover from. 
 
 
 
Animal totemism is a hot topic among magical folk, in particular pagans and shamans. This, of course, has spawned a growing number of books about totems which vary in quality from excellent to appalling, as books are wont to do. Many of them attempt to be an improvement on Ted Andrews’ works, which spawned the “totem dictionary with some extra stuff” trend. In addition, there are numerous websites about totems, again of varying quality. It’s laughably easy to find the information you seek.
 

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#47 Michele

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 01:41 PM

 

...The Totem Animal is perhaps the most corrupted to my point of view. The totem is an animal that was associated with a clan, tribe, family, etc. It was seldom associated to an individual except to the extent that a member of the group claimed it as their ______ Totem. ...

 

I agree with this, and I think it is something between a rock and a hard place in today's world of crafting. The craft family/clan has dissapeared from society. People no longer live in tribes, clans, or even with their grandparents. Families are spread across wide areas of space, sometimes even different countries. Even harder, specific families no longer share the same spiritual beliefs.... it's a free-for-all as to who within any given family believes in what. So there is nothing on which to base their beliefs, ethics, etc., it's all individual or secular-society taught/based.  Sometimes I think people claiming their own totems may be an unconscious reaction, a longing to belong to something as the family as tribe/clan no longer exists in most places.


Edited by Michele, 13 April 2014 - 01:44 PM.

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#48 Atehequa

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Posted 14 July 2014 - 12:39 AM

The term Totem originated from various eastern woodland Algonquian dialects. Ototema, Nto'tem and Odoodem are just a few pronunciations. Ototema were usually associated with a tribe, band or clan's origins and often thought as a kindred or even friendly animal spirit. As much as some go on about totems or totem animals, they cannot be chosen randomly because of one's admiration for a particular species such as a bear, buffalo, eagle, panther or wolf. 


Edited by Atehequa, 14 July 2014 - 12:40 AM.

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#49 phantasmagoria

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Posted 06 December 2014 - 04:06 AM

Totems are a sacred part of yourself they reveille something very deep and important about you. There in away like your witchs name and like that secret name you should never tell others what your totem animal or worse it's name is. By telling everyone what your totem is your giving away power over yourself to others.your totem is a sacred part of you and just like thoughs other sacred parts they should be protected and respected.

...

In my opinion it's also dangerous like giving away a peace of yourself and I know most of us would never do that because we know what someone could do with it.

 

I cannot imagine keeping my totems/animal spirit guides (whatever terms we want to use) a secret. Then again, I am a tattooed person and two of my animal guides are already on my body prominently (Owl and Fox). I talk freely about my relationships with them (obviously to varying extents depending on with whom). I don't see this as giving anything away, but maybe in fact a way of raising some awareness about the intrinsic connection with animal spirits that everyone has. That's not the point, though - ultimately it seems to me that honoring my spirit guides is sometimes best done by acknowledging them in the human realm. Anyway, I tend to converse mostly with folk who are sympathetic to the concept of animal spirit guides. But I'm weird like that :)


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#50 Atehequa

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Posted 29 December 2014 - 10:29 PM

Hi everyone, I'm really new and this is my first thread .I have a issue that is coming up a lot lately and it driving me nuts. Totems I am native American and follow the medician path during that we learn about totems. What they are how to call them even how to help others find theirs. That said this concept that he I'll just pick a cool animal I like is bs. It doesn't and shouldn't work that way. Totems are a sacred part of yourself they reveille something very deep and important about you. There in away like your witchs name and like that secret name you should never tell others what your totem animal or worse it's name is. By telling everyone what your totem is your giving away power over yourself to others.your totem is a sacred part of you and just like thoughs other sacred parts they should be protected and respected. Your totem animal can leave you this happens only rarely and is usually due to a deep spiritual crisis. Most people have more than one totem through out there life or you can have more than one. Anouther thing that can happen is your totem will have three forms usually earth,air ,water or perhaps mythical fire shapes. I have become so annoyed that people are aproching this like it's a whim or game it's flustrating for those of use who find real power in them. In my opinion it's also dangerous like giving away a peace of yourself and I know most of us would never do that because we know what someone could do with it. I hope no one feels insulted by this I am certainly not aiming this at anyone here I'm just so flusterated by the blatant disrespect I see some places. I actually ended up here after attempting a Wiccan site that I found so Juvenal I lasted two days lol. I'm really new to forums so I hadn't researched it like I did after reliving my mistake. I have been reading through old posts and have to say you ladies and gentilmen seem very well educated and masters of your crafts. I realize that I'm new so I expect to have to earn my bones so to speak . If anyone has any questions please ask and I mean no disrespect this was just bothering me so much I had to put it out there hopfully to others who will understand my irritation.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Look, I don't know if you're even here anymore, but wouldn't a knowledgeable person say a rant about totems is like kicking big rocks? These people you speak of totems as if they were on a rack at Walmart have not a clue and at worse only misrepresent the cultures that are associated with totems.

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#51 aphrodite

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Posted 30 March 2015 - 01:03 AM

My grandparents were both half mountain Cherokee. My grandmother who taught me many things practiced Appalachian folk magic which is usually a mix of Celtic and mystic Cherokee beliefs. I was taught that when the Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English witches came over they "married the land" by marrying native Americans. My great grandmother was a famous animal healer. She was said to use her totem animals to do this. In our family we were said to be from Wolf Clan,. Wolf was said to be teacher. . Usually people had many spirit guides in their lives that came and went but four totems specific to the individual for protection, guidance and spirit medicine. There weren't really any taboos about talking about them, although it wasn't commonly shared with strangers. I have talked to several Cherokee who seemed confused by some of the mystic beliefs we had, until I explain they were mountain Cherokee. Then the confusion clears, ah mountain Cherokee, yeah those people always have weird beliefs, I hear. I have traced many of the things my grandmother and great aunts practiced to Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Germanic practices with oddly enough some Hoodoo mixed in, I don't really consider myself as following a particularly native path, we just had totems and journeys mixed with the more traditional spells, charms, hexes, enchanting etc. I do know how to make medicine bags, but to be truthful you could as easily call them witch bags or charm bags. Sometimes we use those bags as poppets if we have the hair or something to symbolize the person in them.
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